Trump's latest tariff threat undermines his own trade deal

Image: Donald Trump
President Donald Trump claps as he addresses the 2019 graduation ceremony at the United States Air Force Academy on May 30, 2019, in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Copyright Brendan Smialowski AFP - Getty Images
Copyright Brendan Smialowski AFP - Getty Images
By Chuck Todd and Mark Murray and Ben Kamisar with NBC News Politics
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First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.


WASHINGTON — Talk about a self-destructive action.

Just as President Trump is asking Congress to move forward with his revised free trade agreement with Mexico and Canada, and as Mexico is considering the trade accord, what did the president do?

He threatened to slap tariffs on Mexican goods unless the country stops the flow of migrants coming through its country and into the United States.

For someone who's had a pretty bad last seven days (North Korea, Mueller, the controversy over the USS McCain), Trump somehow decided to make it worse.

Mexico has promised to respond "strongly"; U.S. market futures have tumbled; and the Mexican peso sank.

On top of it all, raising tariffs on Mexican goods — and hurting Mexico's economy — could actually exacerbate the border situation.

"White House officials did not immediately explain how driving up the cost of Mexican goods might stem the flow of migrants. If the tariffs damaged the Mexican economy, more of its citizens would try to cross the border to find work in the United States, experts said," the Washington Post writes.

And then there's the timing.

It's probably not an accident that this tariff threat came the day after Mueller's statement — and just hours after he took questions on Mueller and Russia.

Is the tariff threat a tantrum? An effort to change the subject?

Whatever the motivation, this is for sure: It doesn't make it easier to pass that renegotiated free trade deal with Mexico.

A (mostly) muted GOP response

What also stands out after Trump's tariff threat is the GOP's response to it.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, released a statement in opposition. "This is a misuse of presidential tariff authority and counter to congressional intent," he said. "Following through on this threat would seriously jeopardize passage of USMCA."

Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, joined her colleague: "While I support the need for comprehensive border security and a permanent fix to illegal immigration, this isn't the right path forward. I'm asking the president to reconsider."

But that's it. It's been either silence from Republicans (who have traditionally been against tariffs and for free trade), or support (see below regarding Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.).

Also, what does this mean for a state like Texas? (Hello, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, who's up for re-election next year…)

Maybe one reason for the muted GOP response so far is that they're waiting to see how serious Trump's tariff threat actually is.

Tweet of the day

2020 Vision: California Dreamin'

In all, 14 Democratic presidential candidates will be in California attending the state party's convention in San Francisco in some kind of capacity - highlighting the state's importance in the 2020 nominating contest.


The 14: Booker, Buttigieg, Castro, Delaney, Gabbard, Gillibrand, Harris, Hickenlooper, Inslee, Klobuchar, O'Rourke, Sanders, Swalwell and Warren.

The one notable absence: Joe Biden.

Other 2020 odds and ends: NBC's Garrett Haake reports that the O'Rourke campaign is staffing up, announcing that it now employs 44 staff in Iowa - more than any other state, with 37 dedicated to organizing.

In a CNN town hall, Michael Bennet called out Bernie Sanders and other supporters of Medicare for All, per NBC's Vaughn Hillyard: "I think they are wrong. I think we'd be much better off by finishing what we started with the Affordable Care Act and having a true public option."

And NBC's Gary Grumbach notes that Sanders answered a question about impeachment during a town hall in Nevada: "I believe that the judiciary committee should begin impeachment inquires. Now that's not impeachment. It's the first step."


On the campaign trail

Today: Bernie Sanders holds a rally in Pasadena, Calif., at 3:00 pm ET… Then, starting at 5:00 pm ET, Sanders, Kamala Harris, Julian Castro and Jay Inslee attend an immigration forum in Pasadena… Elizabeth Warren holds a town hall in Oakland… And Harris attends a Planned Parenthood reception in San Francisco.

Saturday: Harris, Amy Klobuchar and Beto O'Rourke attend an SEIU breakfast in San Francisco… Then, beginning at 3:00 pm ET, eight candidates participate in a MoveOn conference in San Fran (Cory Booker, Castro, Kirsten Gillibrand, Harris, Klobuchar, O'Rourke and Sanders)… Sanders holds a rally in San Jose afterwards… Michael Bennet is in South Carolina… Seth Moulton is in Nevada… And Joe Biden speaks at a Human Rights Campaign dinner in Columbus, Ohio.

Sunday: Sanders, Castro and Delaney attend the California Democratic convention… Gillibrand, in Iowa, participates in a town hall on Fox News… And Tim Ryan does a CNN town hall from Atlanta, Ga.

Data Download: The number of the day is … $852,300


That's the amount Democratic presidential hopefuls have spent on Facebook between May 4 and May 25 on ads mentioning the words "debate" or "stage."


That's according to a new tool from Bully Pulpit Interactive, which tracks the digital spending of the presidential candidates.

Michael Bennet spent more than any other candidate on debate-related ads during that period—$193,000. The Colorado Democrat has been racing to hit the 65,000 unique donor threshold to qualify for the debate stage because of his late entry into the field.

Jay Inslee spent the second-most at $173,000, money his campaign might call well spent considering he announced that he hit the threshold last week.

Kirsten Gillibrand came in third with $139,000 spent on debate-related ads as the New York senator struggles to convert her pre-2020 fundraising strength into a robust presidential fundraising operation.

With the unique donor threshold set to double before the party's third debate (and become mandatory), expect there to be a flurry of spending over the next few months as campaigns look to avoid the chopping block.


The Lid: Ragin' Cajun

Don't miss the pod from yesterday, when we discussed how Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards is putting Democrats in a bind on abortion.

ICYMI: New clips you shouldn't miss

Democrats are raising concerns that the new debate thresholds will force them to overhaul their strategies.

More than 50 House members are calling for impeachment proceedings against the president.

President Trump is still trying to claim Robert Mueller had conflicts-of-interest, something his allies denied in the Mueller report.

Border agents apprehended more than 1,000 migrants in one roundup near El Paso, a record.


Trump agenda: Census consensus

The ACLU is claiming that the Trump administration's decision to add a citizenship question to the census was strictly political.

William Barr said he "personally felt" that Robert Mueller could have reached a decision on whether Trump obstructed justice.

A third House GOP dissenter has blocked the disaster relief bill, punting the issue until next week.

2020: Gillibrand's "failure to launch"

Politico's Tim Alberta has a deep dive into "Kirsten Gillibrand's failure to launch"

Florida Democrat Andrew Gillium, once seen as a possible 2020 contender, is being subpoenaed by federal investigators looking at his 2018 gubernatorial campaign.


Louisiana Rep. Cedric Richmond is Joe Biden's new national co-chair.

The Washington Post looks at Cory Booker's falling out with a prominent orthodox and conservative rabbi

For Our Future is launching a swing-state effort for 2020 that will cost at least $80 million

Nikki Haley is slowly returning to the political spotlight to help Republican candidates in 2020.

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